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The Necessity of Caution in Dealing with an Enemy

TIBERIUS a Roman Pro-consul fell into an ambuscade,
Fall of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus [Cons. B. C. 215 and 213] as he was advancing from Lucania to Capua, by the treachery of the Lucanian Flavius, B. C. 212. Livy, 25, 16.
and, after offering with his attendants a gallant resistance to the enemy, was killed.

Now in regard to such catastrophes, whether it is right to blame or pardon the sufferers is by no means a safe matter on which to pronounce an opinion; because it has happened to several men, who have been perfectly correct in all their actions, to fall into these misfortunes, equally with those who do not scruple to transgress principles of right confirmed by the consent of mankind. We should not however idly refrain from pronouncing an opinion: but should blame or condone this or that general, after a review of the necessities of the moment and the circumstances of the case.

Fall of Archidamus, B. C. 226-225.
And my observation will be rendered evident by the following instances. Archidamus, king of the Lacedaemonians, alarmed at the love of power which he observed in Cleomenes, fled from Sparta; but being not long afterwards persuaded to return, put himself in the power of the latter. The consequence was that he lost his kingdom and his life together,1 and left a character not to be defended before posterity on the score of prudence; for while affairs remained in the same state, and the ambition and power of Cleomenes remained in exactly the same position, how could he expect to meet any other fate than he did, if he put himself in the hands of the very men from whom he had before barely escaped destruction by flight? Again Pelopidas of Thebes, though acquainted with the unprincipled character of the tyrant Alexander, and though he knew thoroughly well that every tyrant regards the leaders of liberty as his bitterest enemies, first took upon himself to persuade Epaminondas to stand forth as the champion of democracy, not only in Thebes, but in all Greece also; and then, being in Thessaly in arms, for the express purpose of destroying the absolute rule of Alexander, he yet twice ventured to undertake a mission to him.
Fall of Pelopidas in Thessaly, B. C. 363.
The consequence was that he fell into the hands of his enemies, did great damage to Thebes, and ruined the reputation he had acquired before; and all by putting a rash and ill advised confidence in the very last person in whom he ought to have done so.
Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Asina with his fleet surprised and captured at Lipara, B. C. 260. See I, 21.
Very similar to these cases is that of the Roman Consul Gnaeus Cornelius who fell in the Sicilian war by imprudently putting himself in the power of the enemy. And many parallel cases might be quoted.

1 See 5, 37. According to Phylarchus the murder of Archidamus was against the wish of Cleomenes. Plut. Cleom. 5.

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    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 43-44, commentary, 43.19
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